The Global Strategy for Infant Feeding is founded on the principles of protection, facilitation, respect and fulfilment of existing human rights (World Health Organization and United Nations Children's Fund 2003). It describes breastfeeding as:

… an unequalled way of providing ideal food for the healthy growth and development of infants; it is also an integral part of the reproductive process with important implications for the health of mothers.

The human right to food and nutrition, including breast milk, is well established in international human rights principles and law (The Human Rights Commission 2020). The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights all assert the rights to food, life, survival, development, and adequate standards of living.

The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women protects women from discrimination because of the responsibilities of motherhood. Most explicitly, the Convention on the Rights of the Childsets out the rights of children to proper nutrition and health care, while highlighting the importance of their parents’ education on ‘basic knowledge of child health and nutrition [and] the advantages of breastfeeding’ (The Human Rights Commission 2020).

Worldwide, breastfeeding has been a victim of commercial interests (World Health Organization 2020). Despite strong global recommendations, the structures, policies and services needed to support breastfeeding are lacking in many ways (World Health Organization 2020).


The Human Rights Commission. 2020. New Zealand Human Rights: Breastfeeding. The Human Rights Commission. URL: (accessed 19 September 2020).

World Health Organization. 2020. Marketing of breast-milk substitutes: National implementation of the International Code: Status Report 2020. Geneva: World Health Organization.

World Health Organization, United Nations Children’s Fund. 2003. Global strategy for infant and young child feeding. Geneva: World Health Organization.